Monthly Archives: April 2019

Visit to Marymount School of New York

I had an opportunity to visit Marymount School of New York on my last day in US. Marymount School of New York is an independent, Catholic day school for girls. The motto of the school is: Challenge yourself to grow in heart and mind – who wouldn’t agree with that. School has 760 students from 3-years-old to 18-year-old. Class sizes are small, only 16-17 students in one group. The school promotes development of the lifelong skills of critical thinking and problem solving. One school year costs 15 000$, but even though the costs are high, there are more applicants to school than the school can take.

Marymount School is known from its three Maker Spaces. Spaces are perfectly organized, there is plenty of stuff to play, create, design, build – innovate either alone or with peer or with group. One educator is responsible for all the equipment set in shelves, tables and lockers; educator is present at Maker Space all day long to help students if they have problems. I truly fell in love with this enthusiasm and creativity. Students are fostered to making culture. I saw beautiful combination of Art pieces and Technology, I look up to teachers’ innovative mind sets. STEAM in action!

Students work with iPADs or MacBook Airs in a 1:1 environment; Marymount School is an Apple Distinguished School. The school works with organizations like Metropolitan Museum of Art and DNA Learning Center Manhattan. School has even two classrooms at MET, and Art teachers from both the museum and from the school teach students. I found this very inspiring: school community broadens to another community, wau! ‘Dream it. Design it. Make it.’ says school’s webpage. No wonder the Marymount School of New York is one of the best in whole USA.

Mr Don Buckley, who hosted me during my visit, is an educator and designer. It was good to have somebody taking care of me, because the school building was so big, divided into many floors and sections. The oldest part of the school building is from turn-of-the-century, a beautiful building with crystal chandeliers and wall-to-wall-carpets. The school was established in 1926 by Mother Marie Joseph Butler. The second building, the enlargement, is from 1984. Nowadays the school needs more space, and a new school building will be build in next two years. The budget for 10-floor school building in Harlem is around 100 000 000$. Just for comparison, the most expensive school building, Opinmäki comprehensive school in Espoo, cost 52 million euros on 2015. Mr Buckley is responsible for taking teachers’ ideas and opinions to architectures, it is a co-design project with staff, engineers and architectures. This reminds me of participatory design, a co-design model I have worked with here in Finland .

Marymount School has different sorts of libraries for students at different ages. Small children’s library is a small cozy place with one, huge armchair in the middle of the room. The library for upper secondary school students is a silent place for reading and individual working. Librarian said, it is important to have a silent room in a city like New York. For groupwork, there are many open working spaces around the buildings, students are free to choose their place of work.

Compared to Finland teachers’ don’t have to obtain Master degree from the University. Teachers negotiate their own salaries, the salary rate is from 60 000$ to 120 000$ / year depending on how effective and capable teacher is. Marymount School provides its teachers a health insurance, retirement advisory and a hot, daily lunch. And, two teachers mentioned to me, a 10 week vacation in summer is a fine priviledge to have.

I learned so much during my visit, that I hope next week when I’ll host two teachers from Marymount school in my school, they would have as good experience as I had.

Raini sipilä

Growing mind and understanding in FabLearn 2019 –conference at Columbia University, New York

The 8th Annual FabLearn flagship conference on Maker Education took place at Columbia University, New York on 9th – 10th March. The conference theme What Role does Maker Education Play in a World with Growing Social and Environmental Challenges attracted over 400 educators, stakeholders and researchers from 23 different countries to participate in inspiring lectures, workshops and poster sessions. From Finland there were three Innokas Network presentations: one poster in Educator track (by Raini Sipilä, Kati Sormunen and Tiina Korhonen), one student poster (by Matias Ola, Sini Riikonen, Tiina Korhonen and Kati Sormunen) and one short paper (by Tiina Korhonen, Laura Salo and Kati Sormunen).

Columbia University is one of the oldest universities in US, established in 1754. It is also a former university of John Dewey whose idea of learning by doing doesn’t get old. During the conference the audience was challenged to ask themselves questions about ‘who is making?’ and ‘why making?’.

Keynote speaker Sylvia Martinez highlighted the word ‘making’ from different angles. Interesting part was her prediction on Future: biotech is the new digital – we will move forward from cyberphysical to cyberbiological future. Martinez also emphasized sharing as the best way to ensure understanding. She encouraged teachers to empower their students to understand their capability to control machines and therefore affect to their own future.

Amanda Cox, the second keynote speaker, came from The New York Times. Cox is a data editor and she is responsible for both written and visual content in NYT. Ms Cox spoke about scale, context, patterns and annotation levels and how these are shown in digital way. In digital newspaper settings are able to create interactively: the reader is able to affect how or what she/he sees and reads. Amanda Cox said, it is important to transform data into a form in which it is more understandable – for example data is put into familiar environment.

Panels on both Saturday and Sunday were more or less representatives’ presentations on their projects. All discussion topics were related with making somehow: Making in an age of social unrest, Making without destroying the planet: is it possible?, Making for film and theatre and Making around the world: Experiences and lessons learned. For me the most fruitful panel was the last one: educators from six different countries shared their experience on maker culture on their own country.

Significantly important notice is, that nobody works alone. Everything is made in collaboration with other people. Short and full papers were written together, young makers and educators had worked with teams to get their presentations to the conference. My visit with Innokas Network experts was amazing. My mind and understanding grew because of the conversations I had with all kinds of people. People who seemed to be as interested in making and designing as I am.


Raini Sipilä